Tattoo Removal: HELP! I got a bad SCRATCHER TATTOO!

Tattoo Removal Tips From The Pros

A tattoo is something meant to last a lifetime. Regrettably, what an individual wants on their body today may not be what he or she wants 2 or twenty years from now. Regardless of that fact, it assumes the tattoo we’ve chosen is actually what we want…and it also assumes the person doing the tattoo does satisfactory job on applying the tattoo. If the job is bad, even though the idea is right, regret occurs almost immediately. When you take into consideration the chances of getting a “good” tattoo from an improperly trained, unethical & unlicensed “SCRATCHER” tattooist being, honestly, about nil to none; (for reasons too numerous to mention. Start HERE for more info.) We (TAM) are here to HELP PEOPLE, (help YOU), learn about good tattoos and good tattooers, because we want you to KNOW what’s really at stake BEFORE you go ahead and get that little tat from “neighbor/uncle/cousin Steve” or that guy up the road. Please take this article into consideration before settling for a ‘cheap tattoo’ because both the procedure and the expense of acquiring GOOD TATTOOS are fairly minor in comparison to having them covered up or removed at a later date.

bad scratcher skull tattoo
what a mess!
bad scratcher cross tattoo
scratcher cross tattoo

Well, here’s some helpful advice if you find yourself regretting the decision and looking for solutions. One of the most commonly used methods for eliminating an unwanted tattoo is also one of the least attractive. The skin-graft technique involves taking out an area of skin from a less-noticeable part of your physical body, and using it to replace the area with the bad tattoo. This odd form of “cosmetic surgery” covers the tattoo, yet generally leaves scars. Only a few years ago, this was considered a viable option for those who wanted rid of the daily reminder of their mistakes.

A surgical approach even more unacceptable is called dermabrasion. In layman’s terms, you could think about it as going over your skin and BAD tattoo with sandpaper. Also when this approach is executed by a licensed doctor, you will likely desciver that the resulting scar is worse than the original tattoo. Even after healing, the scarring left by this technique will leave that part of your skin a much lighter color as well as being structurally different compared to the surrounding skin. Of all tattoo removal techniques presently in method, dermabrasion is the approach which will leave the most recognizable scarring.

Another modern tattoo elimination approach is Intense Pulsating Light Treatment. Although it is thought to be much less excruciating, it is likewise a lot more pricey.

bad scratcher tattoo portrait
A homemade portrait tatoo

But, if you have the patience and the budget, laser removal is most common technique of tattoo removal, but this is not quite as easy as it may seem. Depending on your bad tattoo’s dimensions and the details of the artwork, elimination by a laser device can take up to ten sessions in order to attain an acceptable outcome, if you are trying for complete removal. One source states that each session can set you back in between $250 each visit. And laser removal is generally quite painful. For a lot of people, the best choice is to lighten the already existing tattoo enough to cover it easily, without compromising the design with tons of black. This method combines laser removal sessions with a cover-up process. An educated artist can help design a tattoo that you’ll be proud to wear.


America's worst tattoos
America’s worst tattoos

One other method needing to be mentioned is the old snake oil salesmen who claim to offer magical cures. For years various creams have been solicited and sold as an easy tattoo removal option. Tattoo artists nearly all agree these creams are nothing but a waste of time and money because they simply do not work. Whatever brand-new mixture is sold under the guise of doing away with a tattoo, a possible victim needs to bear in mind that the tattoo is not simply on top of the skin, but deep into its layers.

There’s also the chemical peel approach which utilizes trichloroacetic acid to eat away at your flesh. True, it produces some degree of visible results, but it actually removes skin cells and even layers of the skin. Discoloring, even when fully healed, is virtually guaranteed.

Just some helpful advice you should know.

Now, the more common approach these days is to cover up your bad tattoo, even THIS procedure is not without its risks, PARTICULARLY if the person applying the cover up is a scratcher, (or EVEN a licensed artist in a shop who lacks the time-tested experience of doing successful cover ups, if he/she takes on more than they can handle.) Cover up work, at its best, should leave the old tattoo nearly imperceptible to the average viewer if they didn’t know it was there. So if you are more interested in making your tattoo ‘better’ than in it being removed, an alternative is to simply go to a GOOD tattoo artist and commission a cover-up design to be tattooed over top of the undesirable one. You should consider your artist carefully for this option, and be sure to research cover up ideas and the experience of the artist, or you could end up with an even bigger problem to remove or cover up later. If the artist is less than qualified or if your tattoo is very large or very black, the initial tattoo will certainly be obvious beneath the new one; the larger the initial mistake, and the more black ink it has, the harder it will be to cover it effectively.


The last option we’ll give here is a combination of cover up and laser removal. Working with an experienced tattooer in relationship with a laser technician can provide the opportunity not just to be rid of a lasting mistake, or to cover it with an ‘anything is better than this’ tattoo; instead it offers you the chance to REALLY get exactly the tattoo you want and will be proud to wear the rest of your life. By lasering specific colors and/or particular sections of the unwanted tattoo  to ‘lighten’ them up enough for easy reworking or covering offers your artist the optimal conditions for giving you something to be proud of. Hey, yeah- it’s expensive and it requires even more patience, needing to potentially lighten certain areas several times (and then letting it heal before doing it again) before starting the new tattoo, but in the end, it’s worth it. Take it from someone who knows. Yes, even tattoo artists can make these mistakes- so don’t feel bad if you do, too. The 5 sessions of laser treatment I endured and 11 hours of tattooing later and I ended up with (virtually) a new 1/2 sleeve, and it something I do NOT regret. I couldn’t be happier with the tattoo I have now. So worth it.

Obviously, the wisest approach is to take your time and make sure you get EXACTLY what you want and you get it from a qualified professional artist from the get-go. Do the research to find the best artists and shops in your area. Study portfolios and learn to discern the quality of work from the artists you consider getting work from, and, above all- take your time! Tattoos are for life and it takes ALL of us TIME (tattoo artists, included!) to learn how to discern between good and bad tattoos. If you are not able to tell the difference between GOOD and BAD tattoos, stay connected to the Tattoo Artist Magazine BLOG, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to get daily access to some of the WORLD’S BEST TATTOO ARTISTS!


Featured image by:


Tattoo Artist since 1990 and creator/publisher of Tattoo Artist Magazine since 2003

Similar Articles

7 thoughts on “Tattoo Removal: HELP! I got a bad SCRATCHER TATTOO!

  1. I fully agree with the authour. From my own experience people with bad tattoos just prefered cheap tattoos to good ones. As a rule when I see a bad tattoo covered with a couple of worse ones I know for sure that nothing can be done. When such people hear the price and the size of a new tattoo to cover that mess they think that I cheat them and tattoo cannot be so expensive. So, the old tattoo truth remains “A good tattoo can’t be cheap, a cheap tattoo can’t be good”.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Alex!
      In a sea of arrogant dismissals of these topics, they are real.
      The people who argue the most on this issue are, of course, the scratchers themselves…who definitely do NOT want others to learn about quality tattooing, REAL sterilization techniques, blood-borne pathogen risks and cross-contamination…let alone what a GOOD TATTOO looks like next to a BAD ONE! THIS IS NOT A VICTIMLESS CRIME- people are being MUTILATED, (literally), and they won’t even realize it until later. Every single scratcher collects VICTIMS, and that is all.

      Yes, you CAN end up with a bad tattoo by going to a shop, as well. But it is less likely, and they are legally responsible for damages, etc. Not a guy in his kitchen, whom you KNEW was not licensed and decided to get ‘work’ from anyway, illegally. Good luck getting damages for your pain, tattoo removal or cover-ups later, and you can kiss medical expenses paid (after getting Hepatitis or worse) out of the question. Local law enforcement has only NOW begun to take these threats seriously and make arrests for illegal tattooing. I hope it gets much much worse for them in the future. For the sake of each victim they have disfigured along the way.

      Only those who have gone through the cover-up or removal process can really understand the pain and expense bad tattoo decisions will have in them in the future. And it’s amazing how many will choose to live on with a bad tattoo, in spite of what people (and TATTOOERS!) tell them, rather than face the reality that they what they have is something MUCH LESS than anyone deserves!
      The scratcher LIVES OFF of their ignorance and the power of self-denial…or they’d all be serving jail time )with broken hands, in the old days!)

      We’re all just trying to help people avoid the most common mistakes-
      Starting with- everyone deserves to have GOOD TATTOOS!
      Stick around, and we’ll do our best to show you the difference…
      even scratcher victims.


      1. I completely agree! As someone who has been getting tattooed for nearly a decade, I can say that the #1 way to keep from regretting a tattoo is to do your homework: both in terms of researching a design and the right artist to execute it. Even a great artist can create a not so great tattoo if they are out of their element. Being diligent and treating each tattoo like the first before going under the needle is the only way I have avoided ever regretting a single tattoo.

  2. It’s a frustrating situation, as you’ve pointed out my holding a professional license could potentially result in my paying for mistakes, mutilating customers, unsafe practices etc. Where some punk can buy a “gun” and seriously infect and damage the skin of a customer without so much as a fine.

    I dealt with a young 18 year old who created a fake license with photoshop that never expired. He offered cheap piercings out of his home using sewing needles and labret studs for all piercings he executed. Then he claimed he had apprenticed through the studio I work in, dropping any name someone would recognize and tattooed them out of his home. The state did nothing after several complaints from studios locally and customers who called to report the damage done.

    I feel like our industry has grown so much in the past 15 years, but we’ve still got a long way to go when it comes to educating those interested in body art, prosecuting those who approach tattooing in a dangerous manner, and at least in the state of VT I’d like to see the office of professional regulation take our professional advice about such matters.

    1. Same things happening around here, and everywhere, I’m sure. It’s an epidemic. And the victims grow by the thousands every single day. Victims of ignorance. Would you take the time to write a little article for us? About your experiences, locally? It could help people.

      Education is the key, I totally agree. If people KNEW the difference between good and bad craftsmanship, and they also valued themselves as deserving the best, the scratchers (and bad shops, even) would vanish within a year. Everyone DESERVES good tattoos. And they deserve to be SAFE!!

  3. Also, a “Bad tattoo” does not necessarily mean it was not quality work. A bad tattoo can be some of the best tattoo work in the world but the contents of the tattoo itself be something distasteful, something you thought was “cool” when you were 18 but at 30 you wish you could go back in time and not do it, among other things. For instance, I grew up around racism and white supremacists and thought it was cool to get a huge Swastika on my chest/stomach. Now, in my 40s, it is not so cool, I grew out of that mentality years ago. I must wear a shirt everywhere cause I am actually embarrased by what I once thought was “cool”. So yes, it is very important to think of the future before getting that “cool” tattoo, what will your wife/husband/children think of it in the future?? It can have a huge impact on your life. Kids want to go swimming with dad so you have to leave a dark colored shirt on….not comfortable, or tell them you can’t and upset them, even more uncomfortable. I think this would be the more important part of the decision making process of tattoos, you can spend a fortune on one of the best artists in the world and still have a “bad tattoo”.

    1. Very true, James.
      Though bad tattoos are overwhelmingly done by bad tattooers, (they simply lack the knowledge & experience required to do good jobs), Thanks for relaying that aspect also to our readers.
      And I’m glad you grew up and through your environmental conditioning! Congrats! Not many do! Wouldn’t it be nice to be rid of that ‘mark’?

      How’s about some laser sessions and a sweet cover-up?
      Where are you located? I can try to help find you someone good and close.

Comments are closed.